Nursing homes throughout the United States are increasingly including pre-dispute arbitration agreements in admission documents at the time that nursing homes residents are admitted into the nursing home. When a loved one is admitted into a nursing home, either for short-term physical rehabilitation due to an unexpected injury after an extended hospital stay, or as a result of necessary but debilitating medical treatment, or for long-term care when the loved one can no longer safely live on his/her own, or the family can no longer properly care for their loved one, the family is often suffering from acute anxiety and substantial emotional distress when the admission documents are presented to them, due to the unfortunate, unfamiliar, and often unexpected circumstances faced by their loved one.
The new nursing home resident and the family are often exhausted and overwhelmed at the time the nursing home requires that the newly admitted nursing home resident or the family complete and sign the voluminous admission documents, which are often signed without being fully read or thoroughly understood – who takes the time to read and understand all of the documents required to be signed when their loved one is lying in a nursing home bed in an unfamiliar room, often with a roommate who is a total stranger?
Nonetheless, nursing homes are always looking out for their own financial interests, often at the expense of new residents and their families, by including in their admission documents an agreement that any future dispute involving the nursing home or the resident will be subject to binding arbitration, relinquishing any right for a jury or court to decide the matter. If the nursing home resident is injured (or worse) due to nursing home negligence, nursing home neglect, or nursing home abuse, neither the injured resident nor the resident’s family (in the event that the resident dies as a result of nursing home negligence) may bring a lawsuit against the nursing home – instead, one or more arbitrators, who charge high hourly fees to decide nursing home disputes and who may not be impartial because they understand that they will not be hired by nursing homes in the future to decide claims against them if their arbitration decisions favor injured nursing home residents, make the binding decisions.
Nursing homes often promote pre-dispute arbitration agreements as a money-saving procedure that benefits nursing home residents. However, the statistics regarding pre-dispute nursing home arbitration agreements show otherwise.
An analysis undertaken by Aon Risk Solutions of 1,794 claims filed against nursing home operators that were closed between 2004 and 2013 found that there were no claim payments made in 28.8% of the nursing home claims that were arbitrated, compared to 19.2% for non-arbitrated claims; there were more nursing home claims that resulted in claim payments up to $250,000 for non-arbitrated claims than for nursing home claims that were arbitrated (68% compared to 61.2%); there were more nursing home claims that resulted in claim payments between $250,000 and $1 million for non-arbitrated claims than for nursing home claims that were arbitrated (11% compared to 9.4%); and, there were more nursing home claims that resulted in claim payments over $1 million for non-arbitrated claims than for nursing home claims that were arbitrated (1.9% compared to 0.6%). Source
An important concern that nursing home patient advocates have with regard to nursing home arbitration agreements is that they are pre-dispute agreements (that is, the agreement to arbitrate a claim is made before there is a basis for a nursing home claim). Most nursing home residents and their families have no idea the meaning and the reach of pre-dispute arbitration agreements – they don’t realize that if the resident dies a horrible and painful death as a result of avoidable harm caused solely by neglect or abuse, they cannot file a claim in court or have an unbiased jury of their peers decide the dispute and decide the amount of the damages to which they are entitled.
Nursing home pre-dispute arbitration agreements are good business practice for nursing homes, but they are bad for nursing home residents and their families.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries during a nursing home stay, you should promptly contact a local nursing home claim attorney to investigate your possible nursing home claim for you and file a nursing home claim on your behalf, if appropriate.
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